President Obama is scheduled to talk about housing policy on Thursday while gearing up for his State of the Union address later this month, and there’s as much speculation about what topics he’s going to avoid as the ones that he is going to bring up.
“We believe the absence of the topic in his Phoenix speech may be seen as a sign that the administration is giving up on its goal of unwinding the [government sponsored enterprises],” wrote analysts from Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, reports Ruth Mantell for MarketWatch.
The speculation is that such an omission could boost Fannie Mae / Federal National Mortgage Assctn Fnni Me (OTCBB:FNMA) and Freddie Mac / Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp (OTCBB:FMCC) share prices since it makes legislative GSE reform (somehow) less likely.
Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac reform may not be a priority
We don’t have to speculate on what the President would like to see happen with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. He’s said that he wants to wind down the GSEs and replace them with government agencies, including the expanded powers for existing agencies like the FHA and Ginnie Mae as well as something like the FMIC proposed by Crapo-Johnson.
But now that Republicans control both houses of Congress, Obama will have to choose his battles, and it’s not at all clear that getting his way on GSE reform is at the top of his agenda. It’s possible that he’d be willing to cede more ground on this issue to retain other pieces of legislation, and a glaring omission could be a sign that he’s willing to budge.
Fannie Mae investors still waiting on the courts
It’s hard to see how this would be a victory for Fannie Mae longs, though. Both political parties want to get rid of the GSEs, the dispute is over how (and whether) to replace them. In this case, ceding ground to conservatives would mean closing the doors sooner and taking a step away from the secondary mortgage market.
That’s not to say that his mentioning Fannie Mae and promising to fight for affordable housing, which would probably result in more deadlock over GSE reform, is good for long investors either. Legislative deadlock means that Fannie Mae longs need the courts to rule in their favor, which may very well happen but not without a great deal of legal wrangling.
President Obama’s housing speech may cause some short-term price movement, but it’s hard to see how it really changes the long-term situation for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac investors.